Wednesday, April 22, 2015

She Mob - Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy

Something special for Earth Day—She Mob's one and only 2001 foray into metal territory. Although not known for its metal proclivities (when I told Alan to make his guitar riff sound like Metallica, he confessed to never having heard Metallica, even though Metallica lived 30 miles north of our San Francisco rehearsal space and had been together in the Bay Area for 20 years at that point), She Mob has always had a secret heavy-metal heart—that would be me behind the drums.

I was born in San Francisco and lived through the Summer of Love before living for a couple years in North Hollywood. I would say my formative upbringing has been Californian in scope. But nothing prepared me for teenagerhood in Concord, California, where we had moved when I was in first grade. This bucolic, countrified exurb, where sheep grazed on a hill at the end of our street, 40 miles yet worlds away of San Francisco, turned into a completely alienated landscape during my high school years.

Drugs were openly bought and sold in the "smoker's field" behind my school, which was literally a field full of smoking peers, watched over at a great distance by middle-aged hired goons in big sunglasses, vinyl raincoats and beehive hairdos. These hapless "narcs" didn't bother narcing on anyone, except for escapees from our closed campus. Meanwhile, long-haired stoners in lumberjack shirts and Levi's dealt their wares at lunch-time out of Sucrets boxes. Marijuana, crank, coke—all for sale during school hours. One-stop convenience shopping. If the field went "dry," there were plenty of drug houses to check out—strip malls of the mind. Contra Costa County was and is a total drug wasteland and it's no surprise that its drug task force has been a source of corruption and scandal, probably only recently busted due to years of stupidity and hubris.

Where was I? Oh yes, in this setting, there was a sort of oasis at my school, a heavy-metal radio station that still broadcasts across a vast amount of territory in the hinterlands of suburban sprawl. KVHS—still playing the heaviest metal, 24 hours a day (unless someone doesn't show up for their volunteer shift). KVHS was run like a real radio station. Mr. Evans, our broadcasting teacher, made sure we had weeks of training before we got an air shift. We had to apply for an FCC license, and the news was read from a ticker-tape AP feed that we edited and formatted for specific time slots (more fun to get your news from a ticking strip-let of paper than digitally—take my word for it). It was a good experience.

And it wasn't officially "heavy metal"—it's just that all its DJ's and listeners were into metal, so it was a default format. The only exceptions were my fellow female broadcaster, Wendy Chavez, and me. She played a lot of then just-coming-into-its-own new wave, and I played a mix of new wave, pop and metal, as I saw fit. Once when I was training a new recruit, a nice guy in a Hawaiian shirt who resembled Dick Van Dyke, we got a phone-call death threat during an Oingo Boingo song. My trainee talked him down by invoking the universal creed of compassion for the rights of others. I believe his words were, "There's enough room in this world for all kinds of music." Our would-be assassin agreed and backed off, apologizing for saying he was going to come down to the station and kill us if we didn't stop playing that fag music. And that's today's beautiful moment remembrance.

That's the back-story. In truth, I just wanted to write a metal song entitled Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy because it makes a great heavy-metal title. Footage is from the Prelinger Archives.

From She Mob's second album, "Turn to Chocolate," available at CDBaby.

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